YOKOHAMA--Japanese scientists have succeeded in using human induced pluripotent stem cells to generate an organ of the pancreatic islet that produces insulin, and an organ of the human liver.
The two teams of researchers, working separately, presented their results on June 14 at an annual meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research being held here.
Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) are artificially derived stem cells, typically from an adult non-pluripotent somatic cell, by inducing a forced expression of certain genes. Pluripotent stem cells can give rise to any type of adult or fetal cell type.
The latest studies could pave the way for major advances in regenerative medicine.
Atsushi Miyajima, professor of molecular and cell biology, the University of Tokyo, and co-workers transformed human iPS cells into cells of the pancreatic islet and created a three-dimensional structure from them. The scientists confirmed that the artifice comprised, just like the human pancreatic islet, a mixture of two types of cells that generate insulin and glucagon hormones, respectively.
The technology still has challenges to meet, including a low efficiency of generation for the pancreatic islet cells, but it could find applications in the treatment of diabetes mellitus, as insulin helps lower blood sugar levels.
Meanwhile, Hideki Taniguchi, professor of regenerative medicine, Yokohama City University, and colleagues turned human iPS cells into cells that are precursors to becoming liver cells. They were cultured in vitro for several days with vascular cells and with cells that bond other cells together.
The cells formed an organ about 5 millimeters in size. When it was transplanted into a mouse, it generated both human blood vessels and human proteins.
The scientists said they hope to eventually generate an artificial liver to help test the side effects of drugs. Their longer-term goal is to find applications in regenerative medicine for children with innate liver disorders, the researchers said.
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